Following Prime Minister Hun Sen recent call to strike defamation from the criminal code, Cambodian journalists are once again hoping to change the country’s press law’s restrictions on reporting about national security and politics, reporters said Wednesday.
“Now is a good time to try again,” said Khieu Kola, a member of the Club of Cambodian Journalists.
“No one has given a clear definition on national security or political stability yet,” he said, drawing attentions to two areas in the press law that have worried local reporters.
Even though Hun Sen said that defamation should be shifted from the criminal code to the civil code, journalists can still face prison under Article 12 of the press law.
Article 12 states that journalists whose reports “affect national security and political stability could be fined from 5 to 15 million riel, aside from penal punishments.”
Pen Samithy, president of the Club of Cambodian Journalists agreed, calling continued pressure to change the law “a good idea.”
He added, however, that journalists have tried many times to challenge the law with no luck, and that CCJ board members have not yet met to discuss the issue and he was not sure if such a discussion would take place.
Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said he was sympathe- tic towards reporters but felt they should wait to challenge the law.
“I recommend Cambodian journalists keep the law as it is now,” Khieu Kanharith said, adding that forcing the issue could result in tighter restrictions and stricter enforcement.
“The more details, the more strict [the law could be],” Khieu Kanharith said. “I am afraid demands could result in more restrictions.”
Khieu Kola said that reporters should be allowed to participate in rewriting and amending the press law. But Khieu Kanharith was skeptical that that would ultimately make much difference.
“You can propose to the government or to the National Assembly,” he said. “But you still can’t vote [there].”